Friday, September 30, 2011

If You're Reading Here, Go Research the Job Market. Now.

Today, I'd like to highlight a recent post at AfterAcademe (recentPhD has been giving me a lot of food for thought lately!!) about what the job market in academia objectively looks like … how many jobs are there, how many applicants you’ll be competing with, and how many jobs are actually a good match for your interests and wants. In this post, recentPhD notes that several English departments in jobs s/he had applied to over the past two years noted that they had received up to 700 applicants for a single job posting. 

Think about that, young English Ph.D. students who find themselves here. You're competing with 400-700 other people for every single job ad out there. Via a job market that lasts approximately 3-4 months. If you don't win the lottery with one of those ads, you'll be scrambling for 6-8 months until you can start applying again (with a few hundred more fresh Ph.D.s joining you on the market). The odds are tremendously against you of landing a particular job … or honestly, any job at all.

I'm not trying to be overly negative. I'm just trying to encourage you to be informed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Two Types of Postacademics

Wow, it looks like after about ten days of no posting, I'm feeling quite talkative lately!

Happily, though, my thought processes have shifted significantly since I first started this blog. Rather than focusing primarily on my anger and disgust at academia, most of my thoughts these days are focused on what comes next.

What is not going to come next, for me, is another trip on the academic job market. I've been keeping an eye on the job listings in my discipline, and they are collectively giving me the reaction of "meh." While some of the other postacademic bloggers are applying (or considering applying) to a few select academic jobs, I'm not planning to apply to any. I feel no enthusiasm or even slight desire to throw my hat in the ring again. I'm just ... done with it.

It's not that I wouldn't still like to do research or teach in some capacity in the future. Even my job right now requires a little bit of each of those things, in a more informal capacity. I'd be open to a job outside academia in which I'd do research and teaching/training ... but I'm done with academia, and I have no desire to be a professor anymore. I saw what that job would entail while I was on interviews in the spring, and it showed me very clearly that unless a faculty job was at the ideal institution,* I wanted nothing to do with the academic lifestyle anymore - from the culture down to the workload. I just don't want it anymore. So I'm moving on.

But reading about a few other postacademic bloggers who are taking a partial stab at the academic job market this fall got me thinking about something I haven't seen addressed as of yet in the postacademic blogosphere ... but something that I think might be important to think about, especially since most people seeking out these blogs are new to the leaving process and have no idea how to proceed.

I think that "how to proceed" is going to differ for people based on why they're considering leaving. And I think that academic leavers can be categorized into two broad groups.

The Importance of the Master Resume

This is going to be a bit of a rehash from a couple of earlier posts I've done, but since those are buried so far in the archives I wanted to highlight them again, along with the dustbiter's recent post about how the "career changer" mindset had been helping her prepare for the process of making the break from academia and starting a new career. It's a great post altogether, but in particular I'd like to highlight the fact that she's put together a "master resume" to help with her job search; something she learned from Julie at Escape the Ivory Tower, and something that I've also found immensely helpful (probably based on advice I got from Escape the Ivory Tower or someplace similar).

I really believe this is a critical step for any postacademic or even potential postacademic to take. It's important for you to understand not just what you've done in the academic world, but what skills those things have given you. You have skills, buried under the jargony lines of your CV, I promise.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

On Pay in Academia

This post is about money. You know, the one thing we're not supposed to care about or talk about in academia, since we grad students and faculty are "doing it for the love of the subject," and common things like money aren't supposed to matter to us. Yeah.

Well, this is a postacademic blog, so I'm no longer subjected to the norms of academia in what I think and say. So screw it ... let's talk about money. Because it does matter, at least a little bit.

It's not that no one expects you to consider salary when you apply for academic jobs. Of course you are expected to care about what you'll be making ... but you're definitely not supposed to care too much or too obviously about it. At least in my discipline, it is considered seriously tacky and "common" to talk about whether a school's offered salary was too low or to (heaven forbid) turn down a job based on the salary you were offered. Simply put - if you got offered a faculty job and didn't have another offer, and no one did something egregious at your job interview, you take that job regardless of salary. After all, any faculty salary is better than what you made as a grad student or you could make as an adjunct, right? And, of course, it's "not about the money, it's about the importance of what you're doing as an academic." So you should be grateful for that job that pays $40k for a 4/4 in Nowheresville, Idaho, dammit!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Elitist Barriers to Academia

So, like I wrote earlier today, I just haven't been all that motivated to blog in the past week or so. I haven't been thinking much about academia recently, and haven't felt like I've had much to say in a coherent, long-form post.

There's nothing wrong, mind you ... I've been in good spirits and have been busy with work, a quick weekend out of town with my partner, running errands, taking care of household chores that I used to woefully neglect while I was dissertating, etc. I guess you could say that I've been too busy living my life to spend a ton of time thinking about academia.

What seems to be happening is that I'm growing more accustomed to life as a postacademic. Rather than going through stages of anger and sadness and frustration and whatnot these days, I'm just living my life. I get up, go to work, push through my list of tasks at work, and then at 5:00 I leave the pile of work on my desk and go home for the night and do other things. What those other things are varies by evening ... but the key thing is that the academic work (and corresponding guilt) is not hanging over my head, driving me crazy. I'm just living my life like a normal, nonacademic person. It's pretty awesome.

You're Not Alone - Part 6

Apologies for being MIA this past week. I've been trying to post at least once per week, but couldn't come up with anything particularly insightful over the last few days. I've got a few posts in the pipeline, though, so I'll put up a couple of things over the next few days.

Despite me not having posted much in the last couple of weeks, new visits to this blog have spiked in recent days - probably not coincidentally due to the fact that we're in the first few months of the new academic semester. There seem to be some new grad students out there who are realizing that the whole academia thing might not be a good fit for them, as well as returning academics who are wondering why they even came back.

So since I haven't done one of these in awhile, here is a selection of search terms that have been bringing people to this blog via Google. Again - I can't see any identifying information about these searchers, so there's no reason to feel embarrassed if you see one of your searches represented here.

But I always pay attention to the search term portion of my blog statistics, because I think that it reveals a lot about how many people out there are toiling way in academic positions, being unhappy and second-guessing their choices without apparently knowing where to go for help or advice.

I remember very clearly that while I was having doubts about grad school, I felt completely alone. I felt like I was the only person who saw the unethical and illogical and flat-out unfair aspects of academia, and like I was the only person who was genuinely unhappy. Sure, we all joked about how "all grad students are miserable" and about how everyone was in therapy and on psych meds. But still, everyone always talked about how academia was "the best job in the world." I always felt like I couldn't say anything to anyone about the doubts I was having because, obviously, I was the only person having those thoughts. Perhaps you are thinking that now, reading this.

Well, trust me ... you're not. This week's search terms bringing people to my blog:
-i hate academia (3 searches)
-i hate my research
-hate phd research work
-how to leave academia
-i want to leave grad school
-hopeless situation grad school
-hate graduate school
-i don't like my graduate advisor
-anxiety depression since grad school
-depression grad school science
-academics are snobs

You're not alone, and you don't have to stay in academia just because that's where you started out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Does the Academic Job Market "Fit" You?

Of course, right after I posted my manifesto on the academic job market yesterday, PostAcademic in NYC wrote a great post ... not about how the search committees will view you, but about how you feel when you consider the available jobs. When you see the listings in your particular field - regardless of however many or few there are - do you feel excited? Enthusiastic? Confident? Eager to send in your application? Energized with the thought of working at these other colleges/universities?

Or do you feel a nagging sense of dread? Nervousness that's out of proportion to how you normally feel when facing a new or high-stress situation? Sick to your stomach? Are you having trouble mustering up any enthusiasm for the posted jobs, and feel like you're just going through the motions when you're writing up your cover letters?

When you're contemplating the market, I echo PostAcademic's advice to listen to your gut: attention to that feeling in your gut. One of the first steps to knowing whether you should leave academia is being able to separate what you want from the desires of others.
This is tremendously good advice. As I and the other postacademic bloggers have written in the past, grad school sets you on a distinct track toward a particular type of job - an academic job. It may be that you started out in grad school thinking that you'd consider a wide range of jobs after graduation ... but you're going to just "test" the academic job market because that's what graduating Ph.D.'s do. Or it may be that you came into grad school thinking you'd be a professor (or with no particular career goals in mind), and now that you're graduating, you're going on the academic market because that's what graduating Ph.D.'s do. You may have never considered any other options or stopped along the line to consider whether you still want to be a professor. It's just what people in your line of work do, so you're going along with it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On "Fit" and the Academic Job Market

Just as the academic job market is getting underway for another year, I’m really glad to see my fellow postacademics writing some critical posts about it. Right now, grad students and adjuncts around the country are putting together application packets, writing cover letters, and obsessing over how they can make themselves stand out from the crowd of applicants for each job. And in 5 or 6 months, many of them will have failed to land a job, and will be depressed and discouraged, wondering what they did wrong. 

We postacademics are here to tell you that most likely, you did nothing wrong. The problem does not lie with you. The problem lies with an oversaturated job market full of insanely qualified candidates, and with a hiring process in which decisions often come down to the mythical notion of "fit," which can be based on any number of factors inside or outside of the applicant's control.

As I’ve mentioned on here before, I went on the job market last year. After sending out about 60 job applications, I wound up landing six phone interviews, three campus interviews, and one offer for a one-year visiting professor position (which I had not applied for and which I declined – it was offered to me as the second choice candidate for the tenure track position I’d applied for). So, I’ve seen the process through from beginning to end, and I’m telling you … my fellow postacademic bloggers speak the truth. Many of them are talking about the humanities job market, where things are a bit bleaker. But still, even when it comes to social science jobs ... you have little to no control over this process, so there is no sense in killing yourself trying to position yourself as the "perfect candidate" for every job. It's a pointless exercise.

It’s not that no one ever lands academic jobs, obviously. Or that if you go on the market, you stand absolutely zero chance of landing a job. There are faculty positions posted each year, and someone gets them. That someone could be you; it’s true.

But what you need to understand about this process is that there is nothing you can do to guarantee you’ll get a call for an interview. Nothing. All of those advisors telling you that somehow you can craft the perfect cover letter tailored to the job ad, and the search committee will swoon? Nope. All of your colleagues urging you to send out one more paper, because then you’ll have interesting new research to discuss on your interview? Well, unless you wind up actually in an interview, that submission is just another line on your CV, which looks like all the other CVs the search committee is going through. And your other advisor who urges you to adjunct a new class to expand your teaching dossier? Well, if you’ve already got teaching experience, one more class on your CV is not going to make or break your application. If you've successfully taught a couple of college courses before, adding another one isn't going to do anything to help you. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

On Regrets and My Ideal Life

Just a quick post today, with a link to a guest post by Amanda Krauss from Worst Professor Ever at The Professor Is In. I don't have much to add to it, but it felt like something that folks reading this blog might find interesting. I'm sure a lot of you find yourself second-guessing the decision to leave out of some idea that the workload and the pressure and the stress you're experiencing will get better ... if not soon, then definitely after tenure. Amanda is a former professor at Vanderbilt, so she knows of what she speaks. Namely, that the pressure never truly stops and that happiness after tenure is not guaranteed ... or is even *likely,* if you're someone who enjoys a well-balanced life.

Primarily, though, I'd like to highlight something she mentions in that post that I've thought about many times since making the decision to leave. I'll write a few posts in the next couple of weeks about how I contend with the mental second-guessing I do from time to time about specific little issues that trip me up, since I think these might be useful to readers.

But right now, I'd like to pass along a tip about something that has helped me stop stressing about what my advisors and colleagues and my academic mindset tells me that I *should* be doing, and to refocus on why I'm leaving. What I do is take a few minutes to think about what I want my life to look like when I'm reflecting back on it at the end. Yep, I think about how I'll feel at the very end of my life, looking back at how it's all played out.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Disclaimer: I am not the most tech-savvy person in the world. So when I upgraded my blog template today, it is possible I lost a link or two from the original design ... let me know if you see anything that is broken or missing, or if the new design is so effin' ugly that it's hurting your eyes. :)

Also, I wanted to draw your attention to the blogroll ... now located on the right side of the page. There have recently been two new (and one old-new) addition to the academic blogosphere: Another Academic Bites the Dust, Crocodiles with Coffee, and Post-Academic in NYC. I've updated my site with links to those sites, and I highly recommend them to readers of this blog. Everyone's perspective on the leaving process is a little different, and they have a lot of great insights on academia and on the postacademic world. Remember - you're not alone!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yes, Virginia, You *Are* a Career Changer

Although I suspect we share quite a bit of reader traffic, I want to direct anyone who hasn't already seen it to recent PhD's latest post offering advice to adjuncts who want to quit. It's a great, informative post with a lot of good advice about how to time your decision to quit, as well as concrete advice about what kind of jobs are out there and how to market yourself for them.

First, I'd like to second Recent PhD's advice that potential academic leavers choose a specific point at which you are going to quit - or at least a point at which you will begin sending out resumes with the understanding that you will leave academia outright as soon as you are offered an outside job - even if it's the middle of a semester. If you don't do this, it will be far too easy to just continue postponing the decision over and over again until you're just lingering in grad school or as an adjunct, afraid to actually cut the cord. And while I don't think it's ever too late to leave academia, you certainly don't want to keep postponing the decision endlessly. So as I've hinted at before, I think recent PhD's advice to sit down and make a decision about a concrete point at which you will officially be done with academia is critical for anyone considering quitting.

This advice works for grad students and full faculty as well as adjuncts, by the way. Come up with your own end point, not the ones academia assigns to us. If you're utterly miserable and sure you want to do something else, there's no sense in hanging around until you get tenure or until you finish the dissertation. If you're leaving, the academic milestones shouldn't matter for you anymore. Make a plan for leaving based on your own personal goals and preferences, and stick to it.

What I really wanted to follow up and emphasize from recent PhD's post, however, is the advice about how to market yourself for your "next" job.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Some Random Observations/Links

Hey all! I'm blaming the holiday week/weekend for my lack of posting productivity this week. It's the first Labor Day in several years in which I'm not frantically prepping a new course or trying to catch up on all of the research work I didn't do during the summer, so I've been enjoying the time off ... and have not been wanting to think about academia at all.

But I did want to post something for you this weekend, so here are a few random links and a few random thoughts that have been clinking around in my head this week.